Friday, March 11, 2011

Writing and Publishing on a 4-4?

Strong possibility of 4-4 next year, and from here on out? Did I hear that right?

fig. 1: It's getting awfully crowded in here...

Freeze my wages, furlough me now and then, take away my freakin' photocopier privileges, and then talk about increasing my workload by another class, on top of last year's increase from 3-3 to 3-4?

Okay, so I know that many of you are handling this teaching load already, so pardon me for bitching, but... Really?

((deep breath))

No, here's the more productive thing to ask: How do you do it? I mean, assuming that your university still expects you to crank out peer-reviewed articles or books for tenure and/or promotion, and that you yourself have ideas that you want to get out there: How do you do it?

(Preferably without going completely insane.)


squadratomagico said...

Oh god -- my condolences! What a bait-and-switch! That sucks!

Comrade PhysioProf said...

4-4 means that you have to teach four different courses, each of which is four hours per week of class time?

Anonymous said...

If your 4-4 (as mentioned above) means 4 classes per term, with 3-4 hours per week (3 lecture, 1 lab/tutorial, typically covered by a supervised TA?), then ... I have no idea how you do that *and* publish, no less how you *do* that.

The standard here for tenured research faculty in Ontario is 2-1, and it Does. Not. Bulge. Adjuncts can certainly teach 4-4, but that's *all* they do, and as they are typically paid by the class-hour, and a lot of the 2+1, 2+2 classes are actually second lectures of the same class, they're happy to do it for the money, as there's almost no additional prep time, just additional marking.

Do you not have a contract? A collective agreement with your university? Even going from 3-3 to 3-4 should have triggered a massive issue, culminating in either a strike or a hard-bargained union settlement. Pushing it up one further isn't even close to reasonable.

Belle said...

I do a 4-4, usually 4 different classes/preps per term. Even though the course titles don't change, the content may simply because otherwise I'd go insane from boredom.

My research suffers terribly. There are a few wunderkind who manage 4/4 & publish, but they are few and far between, and usually have an eye on the door. They are held in awe & high esteem, but the load, the piss-poor pay (before the pay cut) and the poor benefits make other options very attractive. However. The saving grace is that admin/P&T doesn't expect lots of research/publishing, and expects that those will be reduced because of load. In your case, if you can, get your dean or P&T document committee to make explicit and credible expectations into writing that they will help enforce.

Good luck.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Hi all --

Thanks for weighing in. I am seriously soliciting advice because I really *do* care about my research agenda, even while I realize that I'm *not* at an R-1 university.

@ Comrade: 4-4 means four courses (though there is the possibility that one may be a repeat) per semester, at about 3 hours each (though sometimes we teach four-unit courses). Technically, it's "24 units a year," however that breaks down. In the Humanities, even R-1 faculty can expect to teach 6 units most semesters.

@ Anon: Yes: we have a contract and a union. But *technically* we've been on a 24-unit contract forever. It's just that for the past 15-20 years, faculty here who can prove they have an active research agenda have been able to count on 3 units of release time per semester. Budget realities have reduced that this year to 3 units per year. And those are likely to go away next year or the year after, depending on what happens with the state budget.

@ Belle: thanks for sharing your experience. Yes, probably our P & T standards will have to change. But I've unexpectedly discovered that I enjoy my research, and I want to find a way to keep doing that without killing myself.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

PS to cpp: but keep in mind that we don't supervise labs in addition to our courseload. So a three-unit course really is only three contact hours per week. Throw in some office hours, and it's all over except the prep and the grading.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Sounds like a massive pain in the fucken asse.

Susan said...

Well, first of all, my condolences. It's a lot of work. I assume that departments will think through work load, promotion and tenure requirements, etc. So inevitably, expectations will have to be reduced, at least if we live in a sane universe.

But the answer is, slowly. During the semester, you may need to focus on reading, maybe conference presentations, and assume serious writing takes place in the summer.

Over the past 30 years, teaching loads have tended to drop; I think you are just the canary in the coal mine, and ours will eventually all go up -- either through increased class size or increased number of courses.

feMOMhist said...

same thing happened to us a few years ago. I negotiated release time in exchange for some service-work that I can do on my own time and that has allowed me to continue publishing.

That said, colleagues generally try to have only three preps and cram it all into either T Th or MWF leaving at least one free day for writing (presuming you can shove all the prep and grading into one of the off days :)

HTH. It does suck mostly because of the feeling of bait and switch, not because faculty are lazy and don't want to work (which seems to be the outsider perspective)!

reassignedtime said...

Notorious, I've got a ton to say about this, but only just returned to town. In the next day or two, expect a post over at my place (I don't want to hog up your comments with a huge lengthy thing). For now, though, my short answer is that it *is* possible - and I would argue preferable - to maintain a research agenda if one works at a teaching institution, but it does require one to shift one's priorities and habits as they relate to research. And can I just say how *irritating* I find it when people at research universities act as if those who didn't land in similar positions don't have anything to contribute to scholarly conversation? That they couldn't possibly do anything of note? Because a) that's false and b) a really limited and limiting way at looking at the work that we do as academics.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Thanks, Dr. Crazy. I was hoping you in particular would weigh in, and I'll look forward to reading your longer post over at your place.

anitchang said...

Just to weigh in with a European perspective from Germany/Switzerland.

Interestingly, even at the top universities here, professors mostly have 8-9 units of 45 min of teaching a week in both semesters of the year.
Almost all courses here have are run on a 2 unit per week schedule (taught in one session).

Granted, one of the course often is a graduate course called "Oberseminar" which has no schedule and is often a chance for PhD students to discuss their research so it requires no preparation on the side of the professor, but the other 3 1/2 courses are either lectures or normal courses.
And as I said this is true for most universities e.g. in Berlin/Heidelberg/Munich/Z├╝rich.
Of course professors are expected to do research and publish, which most of them do.

How all of this compares and translates to the US system and why and how this seems to be a working system (even though professors do complain about it a lot) I have yet to understand despite trying to familarize myself with the US system for some time now.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Clarification, antichang: in your statement, what's the difference between a "unit" and a "course"? If I say "I'm teaching 12 units this semester," that might be 3 preps at four weekly contact hours each or 4 preps at 3 weekly contact hours each. So, when you say "8-9 units," are those 2-3 courses, each with 3-4 hours weekly? Or 8-9 separate courses, each with the 2 1/2 hours you mention?

Just trying to wrap my head around this. In my German Vorlesungen, we met twice a week for 2 1/2 hours each, and my proseminar met once a week for 2 1/2 hours. but i never did explore how many other courses those professors were teaching.

anitchang said...

sorry, I tried to make that clear but obviously didn't because I mixed up the European and US terms...

A typical schedule might look like this:

Tuesday: Lecture [Vorlesung] (90 minutes)

Thursday: Two courses, one course [Seminar] (90 minute), one graduate research course [Oberseminar] (90 minutes)

Friday: One graduate course (mostly on a topic of the profs specialization) [Hauptseminar] (90 minutes)

All of this is counted in "Semesterwochenstunden" (hours per week). One of these "hours" is 45 min of actual teaching. So this program would be 8 "Semesterwochenstunden". Most professors who would get a tenured job now, would probably have to teach 9.

But of course the system is very very different. We mostly do not have tenure track jobs, even those are now being instituted in an imitation of the US system.

"Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter" (the closest thing we have to Associate Professors, but all of them without tenure track) on the other hand only have to teach 4 or sometimes even only 2 hours, which is good for young scholars.

One of the things I noticed after checking Dr Crazy's post is, that these courses here in Germany do not have that much grading work. In most cases actually, the students do not have to do any writing for the courses, only a presentation [Referat]. Writing a paper on the topic of the course (15-30 pages, depend on whether it is an undergrad or a graduate course) is something you do after the course (but don't have to) and something that will give extra credits. Of course during your studies you will have to write a couple of these, but you can chose which courses you want to write them for.

btw, the following figure (in german, but probably still understandable) gives a good overview over the differences in job structures between USA, Germany, France and the UK

anitchang said...

the "following" is this one:

Jonathan Jarrett said...

I have to say, from what I realise is a lucky position, my reaction to this would also be 'eyes on the door'. And your publication record might prop that door open, too, or so I'd have thought.

Maitri said...

I teach a 4-4 load, that's 24 units per year, no TAs. My research is confined to bursts each summer, and usually some rushed writing to prepare for a conference during the winter intersession. In the interim I ignore emails from colleagues asking when that paper I've been working on for years is coming out, and occasionally offer to do a bit of analysis which in my postdoc days would have taken an afternoon, but now can take weeks, as long as I don't have to write more than a paragraph and maybe make a figure or table as part of a co-authored paper.

I could do more, and I tried for several years, but during that time I was frustrated and angry much of the time, got little sleep, gained 30 pounds, was yelling at my young children all the time, and almost got divorced. I decided that I would have to compromise and basically put my research career in a coma in order to have a good family life.

That said, I am not happy with the compromises. If you don't have children, or if you are unmarried it might be easier, but it will be a struggle. Unfortunately I see these high loads as become more the norm in the future.